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Ovarian cancer survival rates improve in Sanford study

Sanford Research lab exploring role of protein in disease progression

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A Sanford Research lab is studying a protein’s role in improving survival in ovarian cancer patients. Findings published in Oncogenesis indicate a higher level of a specific protein correlates with an increased survival rate and decrease in the spreading of cancer cells.

Kristi Egland, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Cancer Biology Research Center at Sanford Research, led the study, which retroactively looked at tumor samples from ovarian cancer patients. Her team noticed that patients with higher levels of the Sushi Domain Containing 2 protein, or SUSD2, experienced less metastasizing of cancer cells and thus survived an average of 18 months longer.

“We want to better understand how SUSD2 played a role in inhibiting the spread of cancer from the ovaries to other parts of the body,” said Egland. “Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed in late stages and after it has spread, which makes it difficult to cure. The mechanisms that underlie SUSD2’s ability to reduce metastasizing of cancer cells could help us identify drugs that mimic its function and provide a target for therapy options that prolong survival.”

SUSD2 is a protein common in cancers that is responsible for telling cells where to attach to other cells. In ovarian cancer, cancer cells often attach to the lining of the abdominal cavity and spread to other organs in or adjacent to that area. Higher levels of SUSD2, according to Egland, seemed to stop the attachment of cancer cells to other organs.

The American Cancer Society reports that ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 75, and her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 100.

Egland’s lab at Sanford Research specializes in studying proteins for use as diagnostic markers and immunotherapy targets. In addition to exploring ovarian cancer, her lab also does work with breast cancer.

Oncogenesis is a peer-reviewed online journal focusing on the molecular basis of cancer and promoting diverse and integrated areas of molecular biology, cell biology, oncology and genetics.

About Sanford Research 
Sanford Research is a non-profit research organization and is part of Sanford Health, an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. Sanford Health is one of the largest health systems in the nation with a presence in nine states and four countries. More than $600 million in gifts from Denny Sanford has provided for an expansion of research initiatives in type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and genomics in internal medicine.

With a team of more than 200 researchers, Sanford Research comprises several research centers, including Children’s Health Research, Edith Sanford Breast Center, Cancer Biology, Center for Health Outcomes and Population and Sanford Sports Science Institute.

Tim Gerszewski

Sanford Health Media Relations

605-366-2432 / timothy.gerszewski@sanfordhealth.org